KENNEDY SPACE CENTER, Fla. (NASA PR) — Joint teams from NASA and SpaceX continue making progress on the first flight test with astronauts to the International Space Station by completing a series of mission simulations from launch to landing. The mission, known as Demo-2, is a close mirror of the company’s uncrewed flight test to station in March 2019, but this time with NASA astronauts Bob Behnken and Doug Hurley aboard the Crew Dragon spacecraft launching atop a Falcon 9 rocket as part of NASA’s Commercial Crew Program (CCP).
PASADENA, Calif. (NASA PR) — NASA’s “Send Your Name to Mars” campaign invited people around the world to submit their names to ride aboard the agency’s next rover to the Red Planet. Some 10,932,295 people did just that.
The names were stenciled by electron beam onto three fingernail-sized silicon chips, along with the essays of the 155 finalists in NASA’s “Name the Rover” contest. The chips were then were attached to an aluminum plate on NASA’s Perseverance Mars rover at Kennedy Space Center in Florida on March 16. Scheduled to launch this summer, Perseverance will land at Jezero Crater on Feb. 18, 2021.
NASA’s Orion spacecraft for Artemis I returned to the agency’s Kennedy Space Center in Florida on March 25 after engineers put it through the rigors of environmental testing at NASA’s Plum Brook Station in Ohio. At Kennedy, the spacecraft will undergo final processing and preparations prior to launching on the first in a series of increasingly complex missions to the Moon that will ultimately lead to the exploration of Mars.
The test campaign, which was completed ahead of schedule in mid-March, subjected the spacecraft to the extreme temperatures and electromagnetic conditions it will endure during its uncrewed test flight around the Moon and back to ensure it will perform as designed.
NASA has made progress in improving the development of software for flights of the Space Launch System (SLS) booster and Orion spacecraft that will take American astronauts back to the moon, according to a new audit from the agency’s Office of Inspector General (OIG).
The software is on track to be ready for the first launch of SLS and an automated Orion capsule in 2021, the review found. However, challenges remain in the over budget and behind schedule effort.
The challenge: getting water to behave the way it does on Earth while in a microgravity environment. A collaboration between NASA, Techshot, Inc., and the Tupperware Brands Corporation is working to get the solution just right.
KENNEDY SPACE CENTER, Fla. (NASA PR) — With the launch period for NASA’s Mars Perseverance rover opening in a little less than four months, the six-wheeler is reaching significant pre-launch milestones almost daily at the Kennedy Space Center in Cape Canaveral, Florida. The rover had some components removed prior to being shipped from NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Southern California to the Cape in early February.
Last week, Perseverance’s assembly, test and launch operations team integrated two components that will play key roles in the acquisition, containment and eventual return to Earth of humanity’s first samples from another planet: the Adaptive Caching Assembly and the Bit Carousel.
SANDUSKY, Ohio (ESA PR) — The first Orion spacecraft that will fly around the Moon as part of Artemis to return humans to the lunar surface has finished its space-environment tests at NASA’s Plum Brook Station in Ohio, USA.
The vehicle – that can transport up to four astronauts – consists of the European Service Module, the Crew Module and connecting adapter and all elements have now been given the stamp of approval for spaceflight after being subjected to the vacuum, extreme temperatures and electro-magnetic interference it will encounter during its trip to the Moon.
KENNEDY SPACE CENTER, Fla. (SpaceX PR) — SpaceX is targeting Sunday, March 15 at 9:22 a.m. EDT, or 13:22 UTC, for its sixth launch of Starlink satellites, which will lift off from Launch Complex (LC-39A) at NASA’s Kennedy Space Center in Florida.
This mission marks the first time SpaceX will attempt to refly a first stage for the fifth time. Falcon 9’s first stage supported the Iridium-7 NEXT mission in July 2018, the SAOCOM 1A mission in October 2018, the Nusantara Satu mission in February 2019, and the second launch of Starlink in November 2019. Following stage separation, SpaceX will land Falcon 9’s first stage on the “Of Course I Still Love You” droneship, which will be stationed in the Atlantic Ocean.
SpaceX is also flying a recovered fairing on this mission; Falcon 9’s fairing previously supported the first launch of Starlink in May 2019 (pictured below). Approximately 45 minutes after liftoff, SpaceX’s fairing recovery vessels, “Ms. Tree” and “Ms. Chief,” will attempt to recover the two fairing halves.
SpaceX’s live launch coverage will begin about 15 minutes before liftoff. To watch the webcast or to learn more about the mission, visit spacex.com/webcast.
NASA Associate Administrator Steve Jurcyk said on Friday that the first Artemis mission to the moon will not launch later this year but will hopefully fly in the mid- to late 2021 time frame.
It marks yet another delay in a program that is already running years behind schedule and billions of dollars over budget. The slip potentially makes the Trump Administration’s goal of landing astronauts at the south pole of the moon in 2024 more difficult to achieve.
KENNEDY SPACE CENTER, Fla. (NASA PR) — NASA has selected SpaceX of Hawthorne, California, to provide launch services for the agency’s Psyche mission. The Psyche mission currently is targeted to launch in July 2022 on a Falcon Heavy rocket from Launch Complex 39A at Cape Canaveral Air Force Station in Florida.
The total cost for NASA to launch Psyche and the secondary payloads is approximately $117 million, which includes the launch service and other mission related costs.
NASA is preparing for the first uncrewed flight test next year of the agency’s powerful new rocket and spacecraft in development for the Artemis lunar exploration program. The Exploration Ground Systems team of launch controllers who will oversee the countdown and liftoff of the Space Launch System (SLS) rocket and Orion spacecraft are practicing – and perfecting – the procedures required for a successful launch.
PASADENA, Calif. (NASA PR) — NASA’s next Mars rover has arrived in Florida to begin final preparations for its launch to the Red Planet this July. Two Air Force C-17 Globemaster cargo planes carrying the Mars 2020 rover as well as the cruise stage, descent stage and Mars Helicopter touched down at NASA’s Kennedy Space Center at about 3 p.m. EST (12 p.m. PST) today, completing a 2,300-mile (3,700-kilometer) trip that began yesterday at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, California.
University of Florida-Gainesville co-investigators Robert Ferl and Anna-Lisa Paul are no strangers to suborbital research. They’ve been conducting plant research in microgravity since the late 1990s—first on the Space Shuttle and then on the International Space Station (ISS) and parabolic flights, many of which have been facilitated by Flight Opportunities.
More recently, the pair have begun flying their “space plants” (Arabidopsis thaliana) on rockets, including Virgin Galactic’s SpaceShipTwo and Blue Origin’s New Shepard. We spoke with Ferl and Paul about how they have approached their long-duration research to lead to successful, iterative investigations on multiple flights.